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Adapting to Student Needs

Dear Student Affairs colleagues,
When I became the Vice President for Student Affairs in July 2019, I was so excited to work with you to invest in each other, in our students, and in this institution in new ways. I never imagined that all of these dreams and aspirations would be challenged by a worldwide pandemic less than a year later. While the past two years have been painful, tragic, and divisive, I am humbled by the many ways I have seen you come together to understand differences, support each other’s needs, and find new ways to connect.
You have worked incredibly hard and demonstrated the power that comes from combining genuine commitment and care with the ability to innovate and be agile in the face of constant uncertainty. A pandemic taught us to be flexible and how to shift operations swiftly. A nationwide push for racial justice provided an opportunity for critical self-reflection and highlighted the need for systemic accountability.
As we transition into the future of living with COVID-19, we are positioned to fulfill our mission of “supporting student well-being and success” like never before. Whether you interact with students on a daily basis or you provide support for our services, each of you plays a critical role in the lives and journeys of our students. Join me in the work ahead of helping our students discover their passion, people, and purpose.
Throughout the past two years, we’ve learned that we can reach students even when they aren’t on campus, and that we can provide flexible support to them when they need it—even when it’s outside of traditional work hours. We’ve found that this flexibility can be good for us, too. We’ve learned how to leverage mass communication tools to build community and engage in meaningful dialogues. We’ve also recognized the undeniable importance and impact of in-person connections.
With this in mind, let’s build on what we’ve learned and consider how we can adapt to meet changing student needs. Let us think like students, with empathy and concern for their questions and fears, and support for their excitement. Let us consider the balance between serving as many students as possible, while also being mindful that each individual’s sense of well-being may look different.
Over the coming months, we will formally launch our strategic plan, including specific initiatives to help us reach this vision. I look forward to sharing updates with you and keeping in touch through the Student Affairs newsletter.
Lori K. McDonald
Vice President for Student Affairs
University of Utah

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Last Updated: 12/12/23